Last week I was interviewed by the BBC on the concerns that have been raised about the growing number of websites offering students bespoke academic essays in return for a fee. My encounter with these companies which offer students 'custom written essay services' for a fee - I have purposely omitted the names of the website that I visited as I do not want to promote or appear as endorsement for them - range from four websites guaranteeing me a reflective report of an entire dissertation. The websites offered me essay assignment of a 2,500 word length to be written within a week for around £450. For a dissertation work, they would provide me a 'first - quality' 10,500 word piece for £2000. This was to be written in 4 weeks. All of the four websites guaranteed a money back scheme if the work does not achieve the grade and if the paper was accused of plagiarism then the customer would receive their money back.
All of this sounds too good to be true, and the reality is it is.
Latest figures from the BBC article reveal that half of Welsh universities have seen an increase in the number of plagiarism cases
With students being targeted on social media through 'sponsored marketing'; essay writing companies have now become the new growing threat to students in Higher Education in Wales. (1)
It is said that there are over 1,000 websites - or essay mills - which currently offer students a bespoke academic essay in return for a fee. There are serious issues that must be addressed by the sector with regards to preventing students from falling into the trap of these companies. The financial implication is the first alarming thing that is a commonality with some of the stories and cases that I have been privy to hear about. Many of the companies lure students with a taster of the work and then they ask them to pay more and more money until the students are left in a situation in which they cannot afford. According to a report published in the Times Higher Education in 2013, more than half the offenders hailed from outside the UK. Some argue that the high fees paid by international students and the need to write in English (if this is not their first language) create greater incentives to cheat.
As it currently stands, there does not seem to be any systematic solution to stop these companies. In 2007, Google banned advertisements for essay writing services on its website, a move welcomed by UUK (Universities UK). A UUK spokesman commented 'more should be done to clamp down on these essay companies' he adds that the body does not have specific proposals to tack the problem, although suggestions are welcome. In the recent weeks, a paper was put forward at my institution in Swansea University to ban these websites on campus therefore limiting their reach; other places have also enforced similar measures. Nevertheless, Institutions need to start doing more to address the threat and impact that these companies are having on students across Wales and the Higher Education sector in the UK. (2)